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Senate bill eyes jail time for nuisance candidates

A bill seeking to impose stiffer penalties, including imprisonment, against nuisance candidates has been filed in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1061, filed by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, seeks to “curb the emerging unethical electoral practice of some individuals profiting from the elections by using their names or resources with the end goal of abusing them.”

“Such practice must stop, and identifying and penalizing these acts are the right first steps in protecting our democracy,” said Gatchalian.

Under the bill, any person found guilty of any election offense, including committing prohibited acts as a nuisance candidate, shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation.

Apart from the penalty of disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right to vote, Gatchalian wants violators of the proposed law to pay a fine of P50,000 to the Commission on Elections.

“The onslaught of candidates who do not intend nor [have] the logistical capacity to launch a viable campaign unnecessarily engender additional financial burden to COMELEC for increased allocation of [t]ime and resources, and much more, since the new automated system would require printing of additional ballots to accommodate the greater number of candidates,” said Gatchalian.

Political violence

In a separate statement, Gatchalian said the passage of the bill will further protect the integrity of electing public officials.

Criminalizing nuisance candidates is also expected to put an end to political violence in the country, he added.

“The proposed measure could potentially defuse political tensions,” Gatchalian said.

“Inaasahan natin na ang pagsasabatas ng panukalang ito ay makakatulong para mas maging mapayapa ang panahon ng kampanya at eleksyon hindi lamang para sa mga kandidato kundi sa ating mga mamamayan," he added.

(We expect that the passage of the measure will help in maintaining peace during campaigns and elections, not only for the candidates but also for the electorate.)

On Monday's Senate investigation into the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, Comelec Chairman Geroge Garcia appealed to the lawmaker to pass a bill that will penalize nuisance candidates and their backers.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who presided over the hearing as chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs panel, said the committee will “seriously consider” the proposal.

Degamo Case

The Comelec was invited to the hearing on the killing of Degamo as political rivalry in Negros Oriental is being considered as the motive behind the governor’s killing.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnulfo “Arnie” Teves appears to be the main mastermind in the killing of Degamo.

Teves’ brother, Pryde Henry Teves, was proclaimed as the winner of the 2022 gubernatorial race in Negros Oriental.

However, the Comelec later on ruled that Degamo is the official governor after it declared a certain “Ruel Degamo” as a nuisance candidate. This paved the way for the transfer of the votes of Ruel Degamo to the slain governor.

The Comelec's decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Teves, who is believed to be in Cambodia, has denied the accusations against him and appealed for fairness. —VAL, GMA Integrated News